Cryptic eco-evolutionary feedback in the city: Urban evolution of prey dampens the effect of urban evolution of the predator

Kristien I Brans, Nedim Tüzün, Arnaud Sentis, Luc De Meester, Robby Stoks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Most research on eco-evolutionary feedbacks focuses on ecological consequences of evolution in a single species. This ignores the fact that evolution in response to a shared environmental factor in multiple species involved in interactions could alter the net cumulative effect of evolution on ecology. We empirically tested whether urbanization-driven evolution in a predator (nymphs of the damselfly Ischnura elegans) and its prey (the water flea Daphnia magna) jointly shape the outcome of predation under simulated heatwaves. Both interactors show genetic trait adaptation to urbanization, particularly to higher temperatures. We cross-exposed common-garden reared damselflies and Daphnia from replicated urban and rural populations, and quantified predation rates and functional response traits. Urban damselfly nymphs showed higher encounter and predation rates than rural damselflies when exposed to rural prey, but this difference disappeared when they preyed on urban Daphnia. This represents a case of a cryptic evo-to-eco feedback, where the evolution of one species dampens the effects of the evolution of another species on their interaction strength. The effects of evolution of each single species were strong: the scenario in which only the predator or prey was adapted to urbanization resulted in a c. 250% increase in encounter rate and a c. 25% increase in predation rate, compared to the rural predator–rural prey combination. Our results provide unique evidence for eco-evolutionary feedbacks in cities, and underscore the importance of a multi-species approach in eco-evolutionary dynamics research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-526
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Janus Van Massenhove for help during the experiment, Line Peeters for analysing video recordings of the predation trials and Geert Neyens for technical assistance. This work was supported by Belspo project SPEEDY, the KU Leuven grant C16/17/002, FWO project G0B9818, FWO research grants G.0524.17 and G.0956.19, FWO postdoctoral research grants to K.I.B. and to N.T., and FWO scientific network EVE‐net.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 British Ecological Society

Copyright 2022 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


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